Bangkok, which began as a small trading centre and community on the banks of the Chao Phraya River some 200 years ago, is today a bustling cosmopolitan city, buzzing with activity and with a larger than life image that can overwhelm the first time visitor. Go beyond its swanky exterior and you will find spectacular palaces, magnificent temples, floating markets, colourful Chinatown – all famous places and all with a story to tell. While the list of attractions is extensive, here are top five attractions in Bangkok that are definitely worth a visit.
(Th Na Phra Lan Bangkok 10200)
No visit to Bangkok can be considered complete without a visit to the spectacular Grand Palace – the spiritual heart of the Thai kingdom. Built in 1782, it played home to the Thai king for 150 years. It contained within its premises the Royal court, Thai war ministry, state departments, and even the mint. Even today, it continues to draw visitors with its magnificent architecture and intricate detail. This glittering walled complex also houses several beautiful palaces, and Wat Phra Kaeo, the holiest of all Thai temples. The main attraction is the statue of the sacred Emerald Buddha, which is actually covered in jade and not emeralds as the name suggests.
(centered on Sam Pheng Lane)
The colourful Chinatown is a popular tourist destination and a haven for the food enthusiasts – from the most expensive Chinese restaurants to the cheapest food stalls selling the most sumptuous of dishes – you will find them all here in the jam-packed streets. During the day time, hordes of shoppers make their way to this 1-km strip and adjacent Charoenkrung Road to trade or pay a visit to one of the Chinese temples. The energy that oozes from the wooden shop houses is irresistible – and you will want to come back time and again.
The floating markets of Bangkok are a visual delight. The main floating markets are Taling Chan Market, Bang Ku Wiang Market, Tha Kha, and Damnoen Saduak. The boats are piled high with tropical fruit and vegetables, flowers, fresh, ready-to-drink coconut juice and local food cooked from floating kitchens located right on the boat. To enjoy the atmosphere, take a guided tour of Damnoen Saduak market. The market gets over by 11 AM so you'll need an early start from Bangkok. You can take a bus from the Southern Bus Terminal that stops within a mile of the market.
(on the west side of Chao Praya River, opposite Tha Thien Pier)
One of the most outstanding temples of Thailand, Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn, flourished throughout the Rattanakosin Period. The temple attracts a fair share of visitors with its fine craftsmanship. In fact, the over 70 metres high spire of the temple, rising on the bank of Chao Phraya River is one of Bangkok's world-famous landmarks. The temple is an absolutely stunning sight at sun set, particularly when it is lit up at night.
(248 Thanon Thai Wang Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon)
The temple of the reclining Buddha is the oldest and largest in Bangkok. It is home to an enormous gold-plated reclining Buddha, which is 46m (150ft) long and 15m (49ft) high. The temple is also famous for traditional massages and teachings of herbal medicine.